Bridge column, October 15: Is it safety first or desperation?
This deal is complex, but fear not, for it is solvable with careful analysis. How should South play in six spades after West leads the diamond jack? Do not peek at the East-West hands!
North used the Jacoby Forcing Raise, showing at least four-card spade support and game-forcing values. South launched into Blackwood, settling for six spades when North denied holding a king.
The minor suits are solid, but South might lose a trick in either major. If South has a heart loser, he must not lose a spade. If, though, the heart finesse is winning, South can afford one spade loser, but not two. Which way should he turn?
Because the spade suit can be played in two ways, declarer should win the first trick on the board and immediately take the heart finesse.
If it wins, South should safety-play spades by cashing his ace first. This gains when West has the singleton king and loses nothing in other positions. (If the king does not appear, declarer crosses to dummy and leads a spade toward his queen.)
If the heart finesse loses, South takes the spade finesse, hoping that East has specifically king-doubleton.
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